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Linsanity!: Jeremy Lin Dispelling the Model Minority Myth

“Asian athlete” – uh, would you say this is an oxymoron? In America’s popular culture lexicon, Asians and Asian Americans are not typically heralded for their athletic prowess, particularly not at the professional level in America’s four major sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey). With China’s Yao Ming bowing out of the National Basketball Association (NBA) due to nagging foot injuries, a new player has taken center stage, making Asian Americans stand tall and proud. In this post, David Mayeda breaks down the model minority myth, examining rising New York Knicks’ star, Jeremy Lin and the phenomenon of “Linsanity.”

Jeremy Lin林书豪

When I started graduate school way back in 1996, I wanted to study the increasing number of Asian Americans in sport. Being half Japanese and a former collegiate athlete, I had a personal connection to the topic. However, my pathway in academia took a different turn. Still, when I see an Asian American athlete making headlines, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little excited.

Imagine my excitement when I saw the New York Knicks’ point guard, Jeremy Lin, tearing it up recently in the NBA? Okay, it’s only been a few games. Still, this cross over and dunk isn’t anything to sneeze at.

If you don’t know who Jeremy Lin is, he is a Harvard graduate, originally from Northern California who was not drafted by any NBA team in 2010. Lin is Taiwanese, but having been born in the United States, he is Asian American. The Golden State Warriors and later Houston Rockets signed him as a free agent, but Lin saw minimal playing time.

This season the New York Knicks have given Lin chance. Due to team injuries, Lin has seen increased playing time and taken advantage of it, becoming “the first player in more than 30 years to record at least 28 points and 8 assists in his first N.B.A. start.” But truth be told, a handful of strong games from a young player in the NBA is not terribly unusual.

So why all the fuss?…

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Giving the Finger: Authority, Legitimacy, and Race

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was recently caught on film pointing angrily into Obama’s face. When we look at this incident and the numerous like it we can see a pattern. In this post, Bridget Welch connects the dots between these incidents to show how racism has been utilized to attack President Obama’s authority. 

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Last week a photo of Arizona Govenor Jan Brewer pointing her finger in President Barack Obama’s face made it into the news. Many people who saw the video asked as anchor Martin Bashir did, “Is this how we are supposed to treat the president?”…

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I’m not Racist, I’m Colorblind!

In a recent post, Sarah Nell declared that if you are white, you are racist. People – whites in particular – have learned to say (and believe), “I don’t see color when I look at people.” Here, Sarah tells us why we should see color, and how pretending we don’t see color perpetuates racism rather than eliminating or reducing it.

Since the Civil Rights Movement’s slogan “Jim Crow Must Go” became a reality, overt racism has become socially unacceptable. The freedom fighters of the 1950s-1970s challenged that hierarchy of white domination and demanded changes in both law and attitude (though they weren’t the first or the last of such fighters). Some changes were granted, but to think that changing a few laws dismantled the entire centuries-long system of advantage based on race is naïve. As Timothy Tyson remarked in his book Blood Done Sign My Name, it is foolish to think that Southern bar owners and the like said to their black neighbors, “Well, integration done come. Y’all can come on in.” It did not happen this way. In fact, the backlash to these changes was horrifically violent, but that’s another story.

A group of students

With overt and in your face racism largely a thing of the past, many whites think racism and racial discrimination are behind us too. Sociologists call this the colorblind ideology. The idea of colorblindness supposedly brings Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous Dream to fruition: for people to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. This ideology is based on the belief that the successes of the Civil Rights Movement have removed all racial barriers to success – that race does not matter anymore….

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Movie Made Stereotypes

Did you go see Red Tails this weekend? The film is a depiction of the Tuskegee Airmen an African American unit of fighter pilots that served during WWII. The film is both a testament to “how far we’ve come” and how far we’ve yet to go in bringing racial equality to the movies. In this piece Nathan Palmer asks us to examine how racial ethnic groups are portrayed in action films and think about the consequences these stereotypical portrayals may have on society.

Have you ever noticed that the villains in almost every action movie are either Russians, Middle Eastern terrorists, or gang members? Over and over again the villains in Hollywood action movies are either foreigners or people of color or both.

On the other side, the heroes are most often white men. Over the last few years we’ve seen actors like Denzil Washington, Zoe Saldana, Jet Li, and Kate Beckinsale take the lead in action movies, so it’s unfair to say there are no non-white non-male action heroes, but there aren’t many.

Hollywood action movies, more than other genres, are a loaded with stereotypes and they can teach us a lot about who holds social power. I bring this up today because over the weekend Hollywood released Red Tails a big budget action flick about the brave African American men who served as fighter pilots in WWII. The film is both an affirmation of “how far we’ve come” and how far we’ve yet to go.

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Got Whiteness? Scholars say You’re Racist

Are you racist? Do you have white privilege? Are you a beneficiary of systemic racism? If you are white, some sociologists argue you should answer yes to all of these questions. In this post, Sarah Nell asks you to reimagine racism as a system of advantages and disadvantages that benefits Whites whether they like it or not.

If you’re white, chances are you don’t think you’re racist. Perhaps you found this title unsettling. I’m not here to tell that you are a bad person, but I am here to show you how to think differently about what racism really is. Racism – from the point of view of many sociologists– is not a set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors held or committed by individuals. Racism is a system of advantage based on race. And if you’re white, you are racist because you benefit from that system. Even if you don’t want to.

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Same as it Ever Was: Institutional Discrimination in Housing

As a result of our current economic downturn, the wealth gap between Whites and African Americans is larger today then any time in the past 25 years. In this post, Bridget Welch explores how historical housing practices and current predatory lending practices combine to reinforce institutional discrimination.

Unless you have been living under a rock, or work on Wall Street, you may have noticed that the economy is not doing so well. Just in case you are unaware of how that statement should win “The Most Understated Statement of the Year” award, please watch this short video that shows the spread of unemployment across the United States. Yet, as hideous as the current unemployment rate is, there is a group of people who live on this razors edge constantly.

You see, African Americans’ unemployment rate is always at the recession rate. In other words, what makes this current economic downturn so notable is that Whites are now at the unemployment rate that African Americans normally are at. And, of course, African Americans are disproportionately hurt by the current downturn – meaning their unemployment rates (particularly men’s)[1] have soared. Don’t believe me? Go play with this fun NYT infographic. The truth is that minorities in our country act as the canary in the coal mine – falling to the poisonous atmosphere before it reaches the rest of us….

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Ron Paul Can’t Be Racist?

Ron Paul, a Republican presidential candidate has been drawing a lot of fire recently over newsletters published in the 1980s that make racist statements. Paul defends himself by saying he simply can’t be a racist because he is a Libertarian and Libertarianism doesn’t acknowledge social aspects of life such as race/racism. In this piece Nathan Palmer probes the logic behind Paul’s argument and draws comparisons to colorblind racism

“I don’t see gender. I am gender-blind. I only see the content of a person’s character.” Would you believe me if I told you that? That would sure make for some awkward dating moments, amirite? Of course I see gender, because I have eyes. And yet a common response to racism is, “I don’t see race. I am colorblind. I only see the content of a person’s character.”…

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Life at The Intersectionality of Race, Class, & Gender

Sociology often talks about race, class, gender, and many other social attributes as though they are a single stand alone issue. However, our day-to-day lives are much more complex than that. In this post Nathan Palmer thinks back on an incident that happened in his undergraduate history course that taught him a valuable lesson about intersectionality

“Michael, you have a unique perspective on this issue, I’m guessing. Would you care to give us another point-of-view?” my history [1] professor said. My mouth dropped open in shock as I watched Michel, the only African American student in the class, shake his head side to side, eyes looking down, “No. I, uh… No.” My professor looked surprised, or perplexed might be a better word. After a long silent pause he said, “Okay,” and then proceeded to talk about the civil rights movement. Many of my classmates looked around the room at each other in confusion at what just happened.

So what happened here? Before we get to that, let’s talk a little about intersectionality. In sociology we often talk about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and many other social aspects of the individual. However, when we talk about them we tend to focus on them one at a time as if they were separate from each other….

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Our Town Lacks Racial Diversity “Because there are No Jobs”

Have you ever heard of a sundown town? Have you ever wondered about the racial diversity in your hometown? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how her hometown lacked racial diversity by design, not chance.

When I was growing up, I had been told that there used to be sign on the edge of town that essentially told African Americans they were unwelcome after sundown. It made sense to me because there were no Black people living in my town of 6,000. There was very little racial diversity. But I still didn’t have any confirmation that my home town really had such a sign or was what is called a sundown town.

Then I found the book, Sundown Towns. I was browsing the book store at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meetings in Montreal and saw the cover. I picked it up and reviewed the table of contents. And then I opened the index. There was not one but several pages where my hometown was mentioned. Here was confirmation that the the sign more than likely existed. I bought the book and came back during the scheduled time the author, James Loewen was to be at the booth. He signed my book and I told him where I was from. We talked for a few minutes and then I moved on and read the book in my spare time over the next year….

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